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Shazam!

For those of a ‘certain age’, ‘Shazam!’ would be very familiar. A popular staple of Saturday morning TV in the 1970’s, the live-action ‘Shazam!’ series gained a generation of fans. Although its special effects were rubbery as well as the performances, it had a rough charm. The new movie version has a budget the TV show could only have dreamt about. Based on the comic-book which was created in 1939, ‘Shazam!’ is a light-hearted romp with virtuous heroes looking mighty even while wearing spandex.

Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a teenage orphan living with is foster family in Fawcett City. Travelling home on a train, he is mysteriously transported to another dimension where he meets an ancient wizard who bestows upon him god-like powers. When uttering the wizard’s name – Shazam – Billy turns into the like-named hero (Zachary Levi). His transformation comes just in time as he faces the vile evil of industrialist Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong). Billy/Shazam goes to great lengths to prove his worth as earth’s newest hero in the never-ending battle for justice.

Although it has its problems, ‘Shazam!’ is good fun. Only those with continuously dour dispositions would frown at its antics. Shazam is basically a child trapped in a man’s body learning the hard way the value of loyalty and using his powers for good. Whilst the word ‘journey’ may elicit groans, the screenplay pushes Billy on a road to discovery to be the person he is whilst dealing with various heroics.

The performances are on point with Angel and Levi successfully conveying the same personalities in different bodies. Their co-stars are fine without being particularly memorable. Letting events down is David F. Sandberg’s slack direction and glacial pacing. Too much time is spent on setting up Shazam’s skill developments with the finale taking forever to end. Less is always more as the cliché goes even if the CGI is amazing as ever with the many fight sequences eye-popping in their spectacle.

‘Shazam!’ doesn’t re-invent the superhero wheel and takes too long to tell its tale. As an overview of what has made the character enduring it mostly works. It makes those who grew up watching the TV series feel even more elderly, a power even Shazam didn’t need a wizard to provide.

Rating out of 10: 6

Pet Semetary

Film adaptations of Stephen King novels have been mixed. For every ‘Carrie’ and ‘Stand by Me’, there’s a ‘Sleepwalkers’ and ‘The Mist’. The inconsistency of King’s big-screen works have earned cautious audiences. A remake of the 1989 film based on his book, ‘Pet Semetary’ doesn’t join the pantheon of cinematic disgraces. A worthy outing bearing the Stephen King name, it proves with a bit of effort, adapting his stories shouldn’t be its own horror show.

Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) and his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) move to the country with their children for a fresh start. Looking forward to new beginnings, their hope turns to despair when tragedy strikes. Discovering a strange burial ground in the woods near his home, Creed turns to peculiar neighbour Jud (John Lithgow) for guidance. A cataclysmic chain of events ensue when the wood’s latent evil soon arising to unleash its own brand of hell.

Creepy and foreboding, ‘Pet Semetary’ is streets ahead of its 1989 forebear. Mainly due to a more authentic feel and less focus on gore, it effectively expresses its story of grief and loss. Several Stephen King movies have been known for dealing with dark psyches instead of grisly occurrences with ‘Pet Semetary’ one of them. Creed’s reaction to family tragedy feels genuine with Clarke and Seimetz turning in strong performances. If you believe in their plight then the rest of the fanciful nonsense seems more terrifying.

Being a horror movie, ‘Pet Semetary’ has an abundance of scares. Although occasionally relying on ‘jump scares’ style shocks, it generally has leans more towards tense atmospherics. The new twists given to the story keeps you on your toes with an ending brave in its audacity but making overall sense. The cinematography and score go a long way in crafting the film’s unique look with a run-time just right for this type of movie.

This decade have seen better works translated from King’s novels. ‘Pet Semetary’ can be added to this list. Its haunting visuals and performances should stay with you long after the credits roll. For a man who has delighted in chilling people’s bones with terrible tales, Stephen King should be happy once again one of his movies doesn’t scare fans away.

Rating out of 10: 7